Category Archives: Events and Competitions

Fabulous Translation

This week on Adventures on the Bookshelf we’re continuing our exploration of the exhibition ‘Babel: Adventures in Translation‘. A couple of weeks ago, we looked at the Cinderella story and how it has been transferred and adapted across cultures. This week, we’re thinking about how to translate fables.

You probably know that a fable is a short story that aims to convey a moral, usually involving animals. Famous examples include ‘The Boy who Cried Wolf’, ‘The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse’, and ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’, to name but a few.  Such stories have been popular since ancient times, and can be identified in many different traditions, including Aesop’s ancient Greek fables, and the Sanskrit Panchatantra, which are among the world’s most translated texts. These stories have enjoyed an enduring popularity and are still widely told today.

Although we might think of these stories as being primarily for children, they were originally written for adults in order to promote a moral message. But, of course, when it comes to translation, that raises all sorts of questions: how far is it possible to transfer a moral framework between different cultures and communities?; why are animals afforded such a key role in fables, and do animals have the same associations across the world?

Below, we’ve included a worksheet that was designed for visitors to the exhibition. However, you do not need to have seen the exhibition to undertand it. Take a look at some of the discussion points raised, including, intriguingly, the surprising study that found that children who were told the story of ‘The Boy who Cried Wolf’ were actually more likely to lie after hearing it! You can right click and open the images separately to see a bigger version, or access a pdf here.

Remember, the exhibition runs until 2nd June – do pay a visit if you can!

Brazil Week

This week’s blog post was written by Franklin, a second-year student in French and Portuguese from scratch. Here, Franklin tells us about this year’s ‘Brazil Week’…

In Week Six of Hilary Term every year, the Portuguese Sub-faculty organises ‘Brazil Week’, a series of free events – talks, performances and film screenings, to name just a few – which are open to members of the University and local community. The aim: to raise awareness of the richness and diversity of Brazilian culture. Events, though organised from within the Modern Languages Faculty, are designed to underline the wide variety of disciplines in which aspects of Brazil and Brazilian life are being researched: politics, history, theology, anthropology and sociology, for example. Each year promises to be an engaging and exciting week, and this year’s Brazil Week – whose theme was ‘Brazil Now’, in light of the election of Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency – was no exception.

The week began with a focus on film. On Monday evening, St Peter’s – one of the more than 30 colleges that comprise the University – hosted a screening of Flávia Castro’s Deslembro, a film that explores themes of identity and memory through the lens of the experiences of its teenage protagonist, Joana. The following day, we welcomed Dr Maite Conde, Lecturer in Brazilian Studies at Cambridge University, who spoke about her recently published book, Foundational Films: Early Cinema and Modernity in Brazil. Maite’s book discusses the reception of cinema in Brazil in the early twentieth century and explores how early films sought to represent cities, such as Rio de Janeiro, in a similar vein to European capital cities, notably Paris, and her talk was particularly insightful for final year students studying Brazilian cinema.

Photo by Davi Costa on Unsplash

Later on Tuesday, in what was perhaps the standout event of the week, the Brazilian writer and activist Anderson França gave a talk which touched on his 2017 collection of crônicas, Rio em Shamas (or ‘Rio in Flames’). Attended by students and staff of the University and members of the Portuguese and Brazilian communities in Oxford, Anderson’s talk highlighted the reality of growing up in Rio de Janeiro, how tourists don’t see the real Rio, and the precariousness of the political situation in Brazil.

A theatre workshop for students with the actor and director Almiro Andrade on Wednesday morning marked the halfway point. In it students were able to discuss ways of staging two canonical Brazilian plays, Auto da Compadecida and Morte e vida severina, both of which are studied in first year. Later that day, St Peter’s hosted a well-attended seminar, organised by postgraduate Andrzej Stuart-Thompson, for all those doing research into aspects of Brazil. Thursday saw the University’s Latin America Centre host Maria Lúcia Pallares-Burke and Peter Burke, who delivered a lecture on the influential Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre, whose work all Portuguese undergraduates come across at some stage in their studies, and, just as it started, the week drew to a close focussing on cinema, with a roundtable, chaired by Professor Claire Williams, involving three specialists in Brazilian cinema.

Overall, the week was a great success, spotlighting the vitality and diversity of Brazilian culture and showcasing the breadth of research focussed on Brazil being carried out at Oxford. Brazil Week is one of many opportunities that students of Portuguese can get involved with to expand their knowledge of the Portuguese-speaking world and be introduced to cutting-edge research. Other events that the Sub-faculty organise include the Research Seminar, which regularly welcomes academics from around the world to speak about their latest work. This year, we have had talks entitled ‘Lima Barreto: An Afro-Brazilian Crusader’, ‘Memórias íntimas marcas: post-war transnational dialogues in Angolan art’ and ‘Critical futurities and queer-disabled existence in Mozambican, Ugandan and Zimbabwean political cultures’ amongst many more, reflecting the global nature of Portuguese as a language and the richness and vibrancy of the cultures of the Lusophone world.

 

Cinderella – Translation and Transformation

In February, we brought you news of an exciting exhibition that is currently running at the Weston Library in Oxford, ‘Babel: Adventures in Translation’. The Babel exhibition is running until 2nd June. If you’re passionate about all things multilingual and interested in how translation has shaped cultures, we would recommend a visit – perhaps after coming to the Modern Languages open day this Saturday. You can also get involved in the creative translation competitions, which run until 15th May, organised by the Creative Multilingualism Programme.

For now, we thought we’d delve a little deeper into one of the exhibition cases: traversing realms of fantasy. This case includes a number of fascinating items, including translations of Through the Looking Glass, translations of the Harry Potter series, and various translations of Cinderella. As one of the curators tells us: “Fantasy allows us to travel without restriction to new places, and inhabit or invent new scenarios. Fairy tales, magical plots and even insignificant items such as a slipper can prompt inventive retellings and manifold adaptations. It’s not surprising therefore that fantasy and magic are uniquely well suited to being passed on from one cultural group to another. Translators play a vital role in that process –and it’s often futile to distinguish rigidly between translation, retelling and creation.” (Katin Kohl, Faculty Lecturer in German, Fellow of Jesus College, in the Babel Teacher’s Guide).

The story of Cinderella is an example of how a fairytale can overlap many diverse cultures. Versions of the story have been around for millenia and exist all over the world. While the premise of the story often remains the same – a young girl is mistreated by her family before escaping, with the aid of a magical creature, to a better life – details can vary from one tradition to another. The Cinderella story raises questions like: to what extent can translation be considered a process of transformation? Does the translator have an obligation to remain ‘faithful’ to the original text? What does ‘fidelity’ even mean in the context of linguistic transfer?

Here is a worksheet produced for visitors to the exhibition. It touches on versions of Cinderella from France, Germany, Ancient Greece, the Caribbean, Korea, Nigeria, and Cambodia.  If you’re interested to find out more, have a read of it (if you’re struggling to read it within the blog, try right-clicking and opening the images separately, or access a pdf here). You don’t need to see the exhibition itself to understand the material included here but we would certainly encourage you to do so!

Open Days – the big one

We had a lovely time meeting lots of you at our open days for German, Spanish and Portuguese, Slavonic Languages, and Italian in February and March. However, for those of you who were not able to join us at these events, or those of you who are interested in languages not represented at those events, we have another open day on the horizon and we would love to meet any and all prospective students. This is particularly true for Year 12 students, but you are equally welcome if you are in Year 11 and are starting to explore your options.

This open day will cover ALL of our languages: French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, Modern Greek, Czech, and Polish. Most of the joint school degrees will also be represented.* It will offer an overview of the degree, Q&A sessions for indidivdual languages, and a chance to chat to current students and tutors.

The open day will take place at the Examination Schools on the High Street on Saturday 4 May. A full programme is below. Booking is compulsory – at this link. We hope to see many of you there!

 

 

*Joint degrees with Linguistics, English, History, and Philosophy will be in attendance, with Classics TBC. Students interested in the degree in European and Middle Eastern Languages should note that the Faculty of Oriental Studies will also hold an open day on the same date. You are therefore advised to visit both the Medieval and Modern Languages open day and the  Oriental Studies open day in the same trip. A programme and booking details for the Oriental Studies open day can be found here.

Babel: Adventures in Translation

Those of you interested in translation might be interested to hear that there is an exhibition at the Weston Library in Oxford on ‘Babel: Adventures in Translation’, which is running from now until 2nd June. Part of the Creative Multilingualism Programme, this exhibition explores the history of translation from ancient to modern times, examining how translation has shaped our understanding of history and cultural transfer, and also asking what role translation might play in the future.

In connection with the exhibition (which is free to enter, no booking required), we will be running a ‘Library Late’, with lots of translation-based activities, and a new competition which is based on some of the items exhibited. Read on to find out more…

The Exhibition

Babel: Adventures in Translation takes visitors beyond the ancient myth of the Tower of Babel and society’s quest for a universal language to explore the ubiquity and power of translation in the movement of ideas, stories and cultural practices around the world. Through a stunning selection of objects ranging from a 2nd century papyrus book and illuminated manuscripts to animal stories, religious books and a bilingual road sign, Babel explodes the notion that translation is merely about word-for-word rendering into another language, or that it is obsolete in the era of global English and Google Translate.

Treasures from the Bodleian Libraries’ collections, both ancient and modern, illustrate how stories have travelled across time, territory, language and medium. Highlights on show include a 4000-year-old bowl inscribed with a language that still resists deciphering, an unpublished Tolkien notebook revealing how he experimented with Esperanto before creating his fictional Elvish languages, and an experimental 1950s computer programme designed to generate love letters.

Exploring themes of multiculturalism and identity, the exhibition considers issues that are more relevant than ever as Britain approaches Brexit. It also tackles the tricky question of how to translate for the distant future.

The Library Late

To complement the exhibition, we’re holding an evening of multilingual merriment on 8 March with language tasters (from Esperanto to Sign Language), mini-talks, interactive translation activities, live music, and more! Sign up for your free ticket via Eventbrite.

The Competition

To celebrate the launch of the exhibition, we’re holding a competition for school pupils from year 5 to year 13. There will be prizes of £50 — £100 for the winners of each age category and overall task winners. There are three tasks to choose from; you are welcome to enter more than one task but you are only permitted to send in a maximum of one entry per task. The tasks are as follows:

A) Magical Translation

Create a modern version of Cinderella in a language and medium (text, audio or video) of your choice with a typed English prose translation.

B) Fabulous Translation

Create a fable – an animal story with a moral – in a language and medium (text, audio or video) of your choice with a typed English prose translation.

C) Futuristic Translation

Create a warning about a nuclear waste site – in a language and/or medium that will communicate effectively with people in the year 10,000.

Prizes

There are prizes of £100 and £50 to be won. The entries to each task will be judged in four age groups: Years 5-6 (age 9-11), Years 7-9 (age 11-14), Years 10-11 (age 14-16) and Years 12-13 (age 16-18). There will be prizes of £50 for the winners of each age group for each task, and an overall winner for each task will receive an extra £50, bringing their total prize to £100. Certificates will be awarded for Commended and Highly Commended entries.

How to enter

To take part in the competition, upload your entry using the registration forms on the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages website (there is a separate registration form for each task):

Magical Translation 

Fabulous Translation

Futuristic Translation

The deadline for entries is noon on 15 May 2019. Winners will be notified (via email) by 30 May 2019. For inspiration about the tasks, please see this page. If you have any questions, please email us at creativeml@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk. Good luck!

We’ll be posting more about the Babel: Adventures in Translation Exhibition later in the spring. We hope you can visit it and immerse yourself in the history of translation, and that you can take part in one of the competitions. Nonetheless, if you’re not able to visit the exhibition in person, we’ll be exploring some of the content digitally in the coming weeks. Watch this space!

Another open day – Italian

This week, we bring you news of yet another open day we have coming up later in the Spring. You may remember that we posted a few weeks ago about our German open day, which will take place on Saturday 23 February, our Spanish & Portuguese open day, which will take place on Thursday 28 February, and our open day for Russian and other Slavonic Languages, which will take place on Saturday 2 March. You can book for all of those events at this link.

Now some good news for the enthusiastic Italianists out there – our Italian open day will take place on Saturday 9 March at our beautiful Modern Languages Library, the Taylor Institution. As well as offering an overview of the Italian undergraduate course at Oxford, and guidance about how to apply and different options for the year abroad, the day will offer prospective students a chance to attend mini-lectures on ‘Dante’s Ulysses’ and  ‘Reading Italian’. These lectures will be suitable both for people who are studying Italian at A Level or equivalent, and those who are interested in picking up Italian from scratch. They are designed to give you a flavour of two different elements of the degree – the literature and the language. There will also be a separate Q&A for parents and companions. This day is a great chance to talk to current tutors and students about what it’s really like to study Italian at Oxford. If you are interested in attending, please book a place here. Here is the full programme…

More open days – come and try us out

A couple of weeks ago, we posted about our upcoming German open day, a chance for you to learn about the German course at Oxford. This week, we continue the theme by bringing you news of our open days in Spanish and Portuguese (Thursday 28 February at The Queen’s College), and Russian and other Slavonic Languages (Saturday 2 March at Wadham College).

As with the German open day, these events are a fantastic opportunity for you to explore what an Oxford degree in those languages looks like. They offer a mixture of academic tasters so you can get a feel for the content of the degree, information about applying to Oxford, and interactions with tutors and current students, who will be happy to answer any questions you have about languages at Oxford.

Highlights of the Spanish and Portuguese open day include: an introduction to Portuguese in 15 minutes, an introduction to other peninsular languages (Catalan and Galician – for more on Galician, see our post here); a spotlight on Portuguese-speaking Africa; and a Spanish Translation workshop.

Highlights of the open day in Russian and other Slavonic Languages include: a mini lecture on ‘Home from home: Russian writers in interwar Paris’; a mini lecture on ‘Russian Grammar in Time and Space’; and a parallel discussion for parents and teachers.

The open days are open to anyone in Year 12 who is interested in studying those languages at Oxford, including if you are interested in picking up the language from scratch (with the exception of Spanish, which we do not offer from scratch). Sessions will be suitable for learners who have no prior knowledge of the language, as well as those hoping to apply post-A Level. There are a limited number of places for accompanying parents and teachers. The events are free of charge but a place must be booked through the faculty’s website.

The full programmes are below, or available to view at https://www.mod-langs.ox.ac.uk/schools/meet-us

a uniq opportunity

We’ve posted on here before about UNIQ, Oxford University’s flagship outreach programme. The UNIQ programme, which is for Year 12 students at UK state schools/ colleges, is a fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in the Oxford environment, sample some of our teaching, and try out life as an Oxford student. The big news this year is that UNIQ has expanded and the University is now able to take double the amount of students for this programme than in previous years. So if you’re in your first year of further education and are thinking Oxford might be for you, send in your application to UNIQ by 28 January 2019. Read on to find out more or check out the UNIQ website….

What is UNIQ?

UNIQ is open to students studying in their first year of further education, who are based at UK state schools/colleges. Students make a single application between December and January and can be selected to participate in one of two activities: UNIQ Digital or UNIQ Spring and Summer.

UNIQ Spring and Summer gives you a taste of the Oxford undergraduate student experience. You will live in an Oxford college for a week, attend lectures and seminars in your chosen subject area, and receive expert advice on the Oxford application and interview process. The timetable also allows plenty of time for social activities; in the evenings you are free to tour the city, sample some of the University’s sports and cultural facilities, and let your hair down at the farewell party.

UNIQ Digital provides comprehensive information and guidance on the university admissions process, and aims to give you a realistic view of Oxford student life through videos, activities and quizzes. The platform offers a range of forums where you can discuss both academic and social topics. These forums are monitored by student ambassadors, who are always on hand to answer questions and offer support.

What does this look like for Modern Languages?

The in-person Modern Languages UNIQ courses have been slightly restructured during the UNIQ expansion. This year, we will be offering courses in French, German, and Spanish, with each of those courses also incorporating an introduction to a language from scratch (Italian, Portuguese, Russian, or German*). What this means is that you will apply for a course in French, German, or Spanish but you will effectively cover two languages during the summer school. The first two days of the course will be spent focussing on the language you study at A Level (or equivalent), including sessions to hone your language skills and knowledge of grammar, as well as lectures and seminars introducing you to an exciting array of topics in literature, culture, or linguistics, from the medieval period to the present day. During the final two days, meanwhile, you will be given the opportunity to study an unfamiliar language from scratch, learning some beginners’ grammar and new phrases, and exploring a new culture through its literature, film, or linguistics. The dates for the Modern Languages UNIQ courses are 14 – 18 July and 21 – 25 July.

* Participants will be allocated to a ‘new’ language by us. Those already studying German at school will not be allocated to German as a new language.

How do I apply?

To be eligible for UNIQ you must be studying in your first year of further education at a UK state school or college and you must reside in the UK. For Modern Languages UNIQ courses, we would expect you to be studying the language for which you apply to A2 Level. Although we would generally expect you to have high GCSE grades, we are aware that, sometimes, circumstances arise which mean you do not perform to the best of your ability at GCSE. If this is the case, you should fill in the extenuating circumstances section of the application form. This doesn’t guarantee you a place on UNIQ, but when we look at the applications we will take this into account.

You should apply online through the UNIQ website. You will need:

  • At least six GCSE/National 5 (or equivalent) qualifications, with a preference for 8-9/A-A* grades
  • A short statement detailing interest in your chosen course
  • School Information (Current UK state school/college and a past school)
  • Your current A-level/Scottish Higher (or equivalent) courses
  • Contact details of a current teaching referee
  • Contact details of a parent/guardian referee

You will receive an email on the 25 February containing the result of your application.

Good Luck!

calling all germanists: come and meet us…

Happy New Year from Adventures on the Bookshelf! To kick off the blog in 2019, we’re diving in at the deep end and bringing you news of our German open day. If you’re thinking about applying to study German as an undergraduate at Oxford, this is an excellent opportunity to meet some of the tutors, try out a couple of academic taster sessions which will give you a flavour of what it’s like to study German, and take a look around Oxford. See below for the full details and programme. If you would like to attend, please book a place via our website.

What? The 2019 German Open Day, designed to showcase the Oxford German course and answer any questions you might have.

Who? If you study German at school and would like to continue it at university, this is your chance to see what degree-level German is like, and how we go about teaching it. But equally, even if you do not already study German but think it could be something you’d like to pick up at university, this event is a chance for you to ask any questions about studying German from scratch, and see whether it’s for you. In short, all budding Germanists are welcome, regardless of whether you have already studied German in the past.

Where? The event will start and finish at the Taylor Institution on St Giles, and the middle portion of the day will be spent at Worcester College.

When? Saturday 23 February 2019, 10:30am – 3pm

How? Book a place by registering on our website and signing up for the event.

Here’s the programme…

Keep your eyes peeled for our other open days coming up later in the term.

Launching the 2019 French & Spanish Competitions!

This year, instead of our usual French Film competition, we will be running a Flash Fiction Competition in both French and Spanish. If you are in Years 7-13, you are invited to send us a very short story to be in with a chance of winning up to £100. Read on to find out more…

What is Flash Fiction?

We’re looking for a complete story, written in French or Spanish, using NO MORE THAN 100 WORDS.

How short can it be?

Well, candidates for the World’s Shortest Story include a six-word story in English by Ernest Hemingway:

‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn.’

Or a seven-word story in Spanish by Augusto Monterroso, called El dinosaurio:

‘Cuando despertó, el dinosaurio todavía estaba allí.’

You don’t have to be as brief as that, but anything from six to a hundred words will do. Just not a single word more.

What are the judges looking for?

We’ll be looking for imagination and creativity, as well as your ability to write in French or Spanish. Your use of French or Spanish will be considered in the context of your age and year group: in other words, we will not expect younger pupils to compete against older pupils linguistically.

What do I win?

There are two categories: Years 7-11 and Years 12-13. A first prize of £100 will be awarded to the winning entry in each category, with runner-up prizes of £25. The winning entries will be published on our website.

How do I enter?

The deadline for submissions is noon on Sunday 31st March 2019.

If you would like to submit a story in French please do so via our online sumission portal here.

If you would like to submit a story in Spanish please do so here.

You may only submit one story per language but you are welcome to submit one story in French AND one story in Spanish if you would like to. Your submission should be uploaded as a Word document or pdf.

The online page will ask you to fill in some details, which are used for the purpose of administering our outreach activity. To understand how your data is used for this purpose, please read the Privacy Policy.
You will then be sent an automated email (check your spam folder if you can’t find this), which will include a link to validate your email address. Please click this link, which will take you to the Modern Languages Faculty website (you will be given an option to sign up to the newsletter. You do not have to sign up to the newsletter in order to enter the competition, although you are welcome to do so). Once you have clicked the confirmation link in the email, your entry has been submitted.

If you have any questions, please email us at schools.liaison@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk

Good luck! Bonne chance! ¡ Mucha suerte!